This is the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s 12th year of recognizing and celebrating area businesses for their growth with our Greater Reading Top Business Awards program.

It’s a real milestone to consider that these businesses have weathered the Great Recession, some worked through the challenges of 9/11 and, yes, some even Y2K (now, that’s a real look-back).

The great thing about these companies, and the reason we recognize them for their growth in revenue and size, is because they are the job creators and economy growers. They are the heartbeat of Berks County.

When a company makes this list (which is vetted by an outside independent accounting firm), it means good news for all. Their employees know they are working for growing companies that are on solid ground. The community benefits because these businesses pay taxes. Not-for-profits supported by these companies are able to provide important services to the community, and much more. It goes full circle and helps the community to prosper.

Ask any of these businesses – from one of our largest employers in the community, East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc., Lyons, with more than 7,000 employees to Good Life Advisor Systems, Spring Township, a growing firm with a staff of 16 – and they will share that all businesses start with a dream or idea. From idea to reality takes unbelievable hard work, tenacity and perhaps great resolve to become an amazing business.

Business owners will share that their journey probably had more failures than successes at first. It’s those who persevere and learn through challenging times – never letting go of the dream to succeed – that make up this list we are celebrating. Diving deeper into the list, six are either in the construction industry or in some form connected to the construction sector. The remaining companies represent a vast array of industries: logistics, financial services, B2B wholesale and real estate.

We also find it equally exciting to honor the Top Entrepreneurs in Greater Reading with the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award. When a community is cultivating entrepreneurs, it’s a good thing. Studies show that communities that have a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem tend to attract talent, become places where people want to live and work, and have overall solid economies. The entities that make up the Greater Reading Chamber & Economic Development Corp. are laser-focused and committed to working hard to support budding and early-stage entrepreneurs in Berks County.

We are so proud of the entrepreneurs this year. The list is also quite diverse: from the top growth entrepreneur, American Barber Academy, to financial services and insurance agencies, to an electrician and two stellar hair salons. We salute enterprises that are making a difference and hiring right here in Berks.

Why is such diversity good for Berks? We are definitely not a “one-trick-pony” kind of place. While manufacturing still remains strong and is evidenced in this growth list, we remain diversified, which gives us the benefit of risk tolerance. From a fine jeweler to a medical practice in the mix, business is healthy in Berks.

Finally, this is the inaugural year to present an award for excellence in job creation and economic impact to the community. This award is so appropriately named in honor of a Berks Icon, Albert R. Boscov, who did amazing things for this community, and lived a life dedicated to the people of this county.

And how fitting that the award this year goes to East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc., which began after World War II in a little creamery rented for $10 a month by DeLight Breidegam Jr. and his dad. Did DeLight know he would one day be a leader in his industry, respected by all and able to impact the lives of countless thousands?

Congratulations to all the companies recognized on these lists. You make Berks a great place to live, work and play. Who knows? We may find the next Albert or DeLight on this roster.

Karen Marsdale is president of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry.